Why it will be a fresh start for Shetty, Rankireddy at Thailand Open badminton

Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy are Thailand Open defending champions. They will be playing together after 11 months.

By Naveen Peter ·

The last time Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy were in Bangkok, they walked away with the men’s doubles title at the 2019 Thailand Open Super 500 event.

A win over the then reigning world champions Li Junhui and Liu Yuchen of China in the final helped them become India’s first men’s doubles badminton pair to win a Super Series title.

It’s been two years since and a lot has changed. While the COVID-19 pandemic forced the 2020 edition of the event to be called off, the Indian duo too endured a rough phase -- first due to injuries and later with Satwiksairaj Rankireddy dealing with COVID-19.

Back on the court after almost a year, India’s top-ranked men’s double pair is once again raring to go. 

“We just can’t wait to get back to competing,” Chirag Shetty told the Olympic Channel from his Bangkok hotel.

“I had a good one month of training with Satwik at the national centre in Hyderabad. I feel it's good to be back playing tournaments. We both are without any injuries and hope to do well.”

The defending champions, however, will not have the advantage of familiar conditions when they return to the Thailand Open. This is because the 2021 edition will be held at the IMPACT Arena rather than the Indoor Stadium Huamark.

“I think this will be a fresh start for us. There’s nothing that we can fall back upon. The difference is that this time it’s being held in a different stadium,” the 23-year-old Chirag Shetty said.

“Be it the drift or the feel of playing inside an arena, things will be different. But we are very excited. Not just because it’s the Thailand Open but because it’s our first tournament in almost 11 months. Both of us are looking forward to getting back on the court.”

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Due to COVID-19, the Thailand Open will miss players from China and Japan apart from the top-ranked men’s doubles pair of Marcus Gideon and Kevin Sukamuljo of Indonesia.

Though Chirag Shetty believed that this opened up the draw a bit, he reckoned that getting their hands on the title won’t be easy.

“If you see many were playing the Japanese -- they were seeded too -- in the opening round. I think whoever was to play the Japanese, they will definitely have it easy to reach the latter stages of the tournament,” the world No. 10 Chirag said.

“In our case, we have Kim Gi Jung and Lee Yong Dae in the first round and then if things go well we will take on (world No. 2) Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan

“But first, we have the South Koreans to tackle. Let’s win that first and then we’ll see about the second round,” Chirag signed off.